Halloween seems to be creeping up on Christmas in the crass commercialism stakes, even here in England, where the tradition is less strong! Halloween itself simply means the eve of all Hallows, and All Hallows is the Christian feast of All Saints, or All Saints Day’ a day when we think particularly of those souls in bliss who, even in this life, kindled a light for us, or to speak more exactly, reflected for us and to us, the already-kindled light of Christ!, It is followed immediately on November 2nd by All Souls Day. the day we remember all the souls who have gone before us into the light of Heaven. It is good that we should have a season of the year for remembrance and a time when we feel that the veil between time and eternity is thin and we can sense that greater and wider communion of saints to which we belong. It is also good and right that the Church settled this feast on a time in the turning of the year when the pre-Christian Celtic religions were accustomed to think of and make offerings for the dead. But it was right that, though they kept the day, they changed the custom. The greatest and only offering, to redeem both the living and the dead, has been made by Christ and if we want to celebrate our loving connections we need only now make gifts to the living, as we do in offering sweets to the ‘trick or treaters’ in this season, and far more profoundly in exchanging gifts at Christmas.
Anyway, given that both these seasons of hospitality and exchange have been so wrenched from their first purpose in order to sell tinsel and sweeties, I thought I might redress the balance a little and reclaim this season with a sonnet for All Souls/All Saints that remembers the light that shines in darkness, who first kindled it, and how we can all reflect it.
If your church is marking all saints or all souls day do feel free to print the words or use the recording.
The image which follows this poem, and takes up one of its key lines, is by Margot Krebs Neale. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or on the title.
This sonnet are from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press,
Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards
Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,
It glances from the eyes, kindles the words
Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright
With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,
The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.
Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing
He weaves them with us in the web of being
They stand beside us even as we grieve,
The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,
Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above
The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,
To triumph where all saints are known and named;
The gathered glories of His wounded love.
14 responses to “All Hallow’s Eve; a sonnet of reclamation”
This is so very beautiful – thank you.
Many thanks for this! Just shared with others on Facebook.
A beautiful reminder that our eyes must always be on the light of the world—because the world will always try to darken it. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Pastor Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
A beautiful Sonnet, Malcolm ❤️
Here is a reflection on All Saints Day, or All Hallow’s Eve, with one of Malcolm Guite’s poems . Great photo attached to illustrate the Light of Christ, illuminating all things, breaking through the darkness, reflected by us.
Hope you find this topical and a source of meditative reflection.
God Bless, Bob
If you are already on Guite’s mailing list, you have already gotten this, if not, here it is.
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This is so beautiful and poignant, Mr. Guite. I wish we observed this in our church. Unbelievably, I’d never heard of gibbet. Now I know. May we remember those saints who now see God in eternal light.
The imagery of shards reminds me of the Kabbalistic imagery of the shards of the Qlipoth. And the scattered lights remind me of Isaac Luria’s idea that there are scattered sparks of light throughout all Creation.
People have been complaining about the commercialization of Christmas since the second century CE. Before that, people probably complained about the commercialization of Saturnalia.
Samhain (in both its contemporary and ancient Pagan forms) has a profoundly spiritual purpose of connection with the ancestors. The ethics of Paganism around offerings etc are different than those of Christianity, but never doubt that there’s a spiritual meaning within them.
Thanks. Yes I certainly think there is some common ground
There is common ground, but each system needs to be evaluated on its own criteria and symbolism, rather than reading one in the terms of another.
Anyway I’m glad to see you and other Christians talking about All Saints and All Souls. They’re an important aspect of your tradition and a good corrective to the ghoulish aspects of commercialized Halloween. There’s a place for bringing things we are scared of into consciousness and dealing with them, but I am not sure that mainstream culture is using them for that.